Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Facebook rules can ruin your privacy! Malaysiakini

Earlier this month, Facebook deleted a provision from its terms of service that said users could remove their content at any time, and added new language that said it would retain users’ content after an account was terminated. Waves of protests from users ensued. On Wednesday, Facebook, trying to quell anger among its tens of millions of users, reversed its new policy.
Why the privacy backlash from those who happily plaster their pages with personal information? What do social networking sites like Facebook owe their users?

Timothy B. Lee, Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy
Alice Mathias, filmmaker at University of Southern California
Marcia Hofmann and David L. Sobel, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Maciej Ceglowski, writer and computer programmer
Jonathan Zittrain, professor of law
Lauren Bans, freelance writer
Nick O’Neill, founder and editor of AllFacebook.com
Susan Mernit, former Netscape and AOL vice president

So why was the uproar so loud about Facebook’s change? The primary reason is that Facebook is probably the single fastest growing site on the Web in terms of the numbers of new users registering daily (currently estimated between 470,000 and 600,000). With that sort of growth, it is pretty much the most buzzworthy company on earth today.

Some users seem to think that their information is private among themselves and their friends.
The second reason for the rapid backlash is that Facebook users are not fully educated about their rights when they register for Facebook. Users simply assume that their right to privacy will be maintained and they continue with that assumption even when they become highly active users (50 percent of users return daily). Some users seem to think that their information is private among themselves and their friends. Unfortunately, that isn’t true, even as users make private information very public.

Lots of people say they are concerned about their privacy, and yet they aren’t willing to take the time to educate themselves about what privacy settings are available to them. Is that Facebook’s fault? Is it the user’s fault? That is something that can be debated for a long time. What is clear is that Facebook has not yet clearly articulated all of its privacy settings while users have failed to perform their “due diligence” before registering for the site.

In an age when practically all of our personal information is becoming public, providing information to third parties and understanding what they are going to do with it is increasingly complex. I believe it’s the user’s duty to find out before they decide to post their deepest secrets for all to see.

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